EMS task force struggles to find equitable solution, especially for Dinosaur
While the Moffat County appointed task force continues to wrestle with potential solutions for county-wide EMS, Dinosaur representatives feel their community is being left out of the picture.
In a recent statement, Memorial Regional Health promised they are not planning to drop EMS, which currently provides 24/7 service to Craig. Meanwhile, the taskforce continues looking for ways to maintain the county-supported ambulance in Maybell and provide ambulance service in Dinosaur.
Since assembling in March, the task force has reviewed information primarily from Craig and Maybell EMS to better understand call volume, levels of care, operations and financials. Some of this information was more difficult to obtain from Dinosaur, which is currently serviced by Gold Cross EMS out of Vernal, Utah.
There is an MOU in place with Gold Cross to service Dinosaur. Nichole Becker, Dinosaur task force representative, said that the town would like to keep that MOU in place to assist with EMS.
Even with a local ambulance service, Becker said that Dinosaur would need Gold Cross as back up if there were more than one call at a time and if the calls required advanced life service.
After reviewing the information that was available, the task force plans on drafting a proposal that would help get other entities who rely on EMS on board to support county-wide EMS financially.
Some task force members advocated that they come up with a dollar amount to ask entities to contribute, based on costs, but others felt the task force needed to first know who is going to be on board.
“No one entity can afford or sustain EMS on their own, everybody plays a role,” said Karen Burley, task force co-chair. “If all of those players kicked in for what they ask EMS to support, plus fee for service, we would have the money to keep EMS the way it is and support EMS for the whole county.”
Burley said all entities who ask for services from EMS should be at the table, including the city and county, fire districts, medical and health agencies, and the Town of Dinosaur. Burley said the entities, including the Town of Dinosaur, need to decide whether EMS is essential and if they are willing to pay for those services.
According to Burley, if Dinosaur EMS is under Artesia Fire District, it could be funded under the tax initiative that Dinosaur voters elected to support their fire district. If the ambulance is out on its own, it will need to be funded in other ways.
Under a recently passed state bill, all ambulance licensing will be taken over by the state, which EMS task force co-chair Justin Doubrava said is intended to create efficiencies for local agencies. But it’s still unclear how the state bill will impact local EMS decisions.
The bill will also establish a mandatory state-wide task force to assess EMS services across Colorado and make a recommendation for its long-term sustainability and how to provide services to places like Dinosaur that are unfunded or at risk of being shut down.
According to Burley and Doubrava, it’s still five years before the bill will impact Moffat, and the county should still be able to maintain some local decision making power over its EMS operations.
Some task force members voiced that they think EMS should be a department under the county, because the commissioners are accountable to the voters and are considering the whole county and population.
“We can’t sit here and wait for the taskforce, the county, or the state to figure out a plan. We have to do something,” Becker said.
Without knowing exact call numbers and levels of care in Dinosaur, it is difficult to estimate exactly how much it will cost to build and operate a local ambulance. Becker said that the residents of Dinosaur are looking to her and to what the task force is going to decide to know which direction to go.
“I am just one person trying to get this done, but I don’t have the resources that some of the other people have to get this done,” Becker said.
Although the task force has come up with a plan to present to the county and other entities, Becker said that the process of getting there has been tough.
According to Becker, there have been a lot of subcommittee meetings that not all task force members were invited to, so when the task force comes together there are discussions and decisions on the table that not all the task force members have been involved with.
“The plan they came forward with still does not have a plan for Dinosaur. We feel like an afterthought,” Becker said. “We have to put Dinosaur in the forefront, because it’s building a whole new EMS.”
Becker, who also sits on the Artesia Fire District board, has been doing some footwork to get Dinosaur ready for his own ambulance service. Dinosaur may be able to get a 4WD ambulance donated from Rangely, which needs to donate its used ambulance after purchasing a new one.
There are community members in Dinosaur who are willing to become EMT certified, but they still need to work out how they will fund and access remote EMT training. Burley said a subcommittee is meeting with CNCC President Lisa Jones to discuss the future of the EMT training. But the CNCC meeting was one that Becker said not all of the task force was invited to attend.
“If you want to know what rural EMS training needs to look like, why don’t you ask the people who live in the community where training is needed,” Becker said.
Becker has had informal conversations with county commissioners to let them know what is working and not working, and to reiterate the position that Dinosaur is in. This isn’t a situation that was created overnight, Becker said, it’s been decades of Dinosaur being left to fend for itself.
“It’s tough because I am not trying to be difficult, but I can’t step back and be a wallflower and not stand up for the people in Dinosaur,” Becker said. “No one else on the task force is in the situation that I am in with my community, and I feel like I have to be the voice for my community.”